To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs.
That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQto infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The files were obtained by the Guardian and are being published on Monday in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica.
The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which boasts more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users.
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LINK TO DOCUMENT
We contacted Microsoft for a statement regarding this accusation and received the following statement in return.
"We’re not aware of any surveillance activity" a Microsoft spokesperson responded. "If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn’t done with our consent."
A Blizzard Entertainment made a similar comment about World of Warcraft.
"We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment. "If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission."
EG: Microsoft buffs up security following privacy concerns
Lets you see a detailed history of your account activity.
Following concerns that government agents can listen in on Xbox Live and other game communication channels, Microsoft has issued a new security measure to bring its users peace of mind.
"Our goal with this new experience is to give you peace of mind when everything is going well, and give you actionable information if there's questionable activity that concerns you," Microsoft noted on its official blog.
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